MOUNT VERNON — Of the inmates housed in the Knox County Jail, the majority of them are as a result of arrests made by the Mount Vernon Police Department.
From Jan. 1, 2009, through Nov. 15, 2009, there were 1,456; of those, 666 came from the MVPD. The remainder came from the Knox County Sheriff's Office, Fredericktown and Danville police departments, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the court system. In addition, Fairfield County housed 19 inmates in the Knox County Jail.
The city of Mount Vernon recently approved a contract which increased by 4 percent the city’s cost to house inmates in the jail. For 2010, the city will pay $35 a day to house MVPD prisoners, or $298,341. That compares to $286,866 for 2009.
When making an arrest, law enforcement personnel can cite the individual under the codified ordinances of a city or village, or under the Ohio Revised Code.
“The reason we cite prisoners under city ordinance is because we get to keep the court costs and fine money related to whatever crime it was,” said Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Mavis. “If we cite them under state code, all that money would be sent back to the state of Ohio.”
Through the end of November 2009, said Mavis, revenue from fines came to $436,549; revenue from forfeitures came to $138,000. Final figures for 2009 are not yet determined, but Mavis estimated the revenue to be $450,000 and $150,000, respectively.
“Our jail contract is just under $300,000, so it is kind of a revenue producer for us,” he said. “That is something that everybody has to keep in mind, that ultimately, if costs of the prisoners becomes more than the revenue you’re producing, then you’d want to charge everyone under state code.”
The majority of arrests made by the Danville and Fredericktown police departments are cited under the ORC. It’s not clear when the decision was made to cite them under state code.
“The way it was explained to me years ago,” said Danville Chief Monte Vance, “is when we arrest them under state code, the money goes to the court and then goes to the county. The village does not receive any money from the cases we file. When I started at Danville in the early ’80s, it was explained to me by the police chief then that any court cases that are jailable offenses, I was instructed always to file them under state code. But I have never seen anything in writing.
“I don’t know what would happen if we did [charge them under village ordinance],” he added. “I don’t know if would change anything or not.”
“It’s just been the past practice as long as I have been here,” said Lt. Jay Sheffer, who’s been with the Fredericktown department for 13 years. “Minor misdemeanors can go under village ordinance, misdemeanors above will go under state code.”
Neither Danville nor Fredericktown has a contract with the jail, as Mount Vernon does.
“I think it has a lot to do with how many they jail,” said Sheffer, referring to the MVPD. “We don’t have that many arrests.”
From January through Nov. 15, 2009, Fredericktown and Danville departments accounted for 31 and 14 arrests, respectively. According to Knox County Sheriff David Barber, those numbers do not necessarily reflect arrests because of offenses incurred by village residents. For example, he said, some of those individuals may have been picked up on an outstanding warrant from another county. In those cases, under state law, the county jail is required to house those prisoners.
“When they incarcerate somebody that is charged under the Ohio Revised Code as opposed to the codified ordinance of Fredericktown, my budget absorbs the housing for anyone charged under the Ohio Revised Code,” said Barber, adding that those arrested by Fredericktown or Danville do not make a significant impact.
“Some of those incarcerated should be billed to the city, but are not,” he said, citing as an example someone picked up by the KCSO on a municipal court warrant. “If they are not brought in by the Mount Vernon Police Department, the city is probably not being billed.”
Barber said the cost of housing an inmate is $30 to $35 a day. The money paid by the city of Mount Vernon goes toward covering the cost of meals, utilities and supplies. The cost of jail personnel is not included in the $35 charged to the city, he said, nor is the cost of minor health care costs, such as prescriptions, an emergent dental visit at the health department, or a visit to the emergency room. Barber said jail personnel costs are around $1.2 million a year.
“The city administration needs to understand that [$35] number is a bit conservative,” said Barber. “The city is getting a bargain.”
Medical care was mentioned by Vance as a possible reason Danville cites under the ORC.
“If somebody is arrested for drunk driving under village ordinance, and the court gives them 10 days in jail, would the village get charged for those 10 days?” he asked. “And what if that person gets sick and has to go to the hospital — is the village charged? I don’t know. If it is that way, I can see where the powers that be made the decision to charge under state code. The monetary budget the village works on, if medical expenses are tied into it, that could bankrupt the village.”
Barber said if an inmate is arrested under a city or village ordinance and incurs major medical expense, those costs would in fact be billed to the municipality. According to Barber, there is a catastrophic clause in the contract with the city of Mount Vernon stating as such.
Inmates housed for other counties are charged a rate of $60 a day, although Barber said that number has recently come down.
“We lowered the rate for Fairfield County to a little under $50 a day to try and make it more attractive to get their revenue,” said Barber. “In addition to the $50 each day per inmate, we send them a bill for medical care.”
Inmates are not charged for their incarceration.
“The only time inmates are charged is if they are on a work release program through the courts,” said Barber. “They have to pay a daily cost to be on the work release program.”
Inmates pay $12 a day in the work release program. The program, started in 2002, averages one person a month.
“They cannot be housed in with the general population, so it’s a situation where bed space can be affected,” said Barber. “We came up with the fee by talking to other jails who had the work release program. Typically, when they’re on a work release program, they’re not here 24 hours a day, so they are not actually being housed for 24 hours.”
Typically, said Barber, work release inmates do not eat lunch or dinner at the jail. They do get breakfast, which is prepared by the jail staff.
“Work release is not really a revenue generating program because we don’t have very many,” said Barber. “We have explored pay-to-stay, where inmates pay a flat amount each day, but it doesn’t work because most people don’t have an income, and if they’re indigent, you can’t charge them.”
Barber said Licking and Delaware county officials have said such a system is not worth implementing.